From nurse to doctor … of research
Ann Hewison has successfully completed her PhD in ‘Managing treatment and living with chronic myeloid leukaemia’ in 2022, becoming Dr Hewison.
Ann has worked in the Epidemiology and Cancer Statistics Group (ECSG) since 2012 when she joined as a study nurse. Her talent and interest in research were soon spotted by the team in ECSG and she was encouraged to apply for a PhD programme. After seven years of hard work, studying and researching for her PhD on top of her day job, she recently achieved her goal and received her doctorate from York.
One of her supervisors, Dr Debra Howell, says of this accomplishment:
“The ECSG team has been delighted to see Ann build on her existing clinical experience and develop her research skills over the course of her PhD. She showed great commitment to the task in hand, and was determined to generate findings that could be used to improve clinical practice and patient experiences. We are all very proud of her and confident that she will continue to achieve great things in the future.”
A taste for research
Ann says that she first got a taste for research in her undergraduate nursing degree. Looking back she recalls that “I always wanted to be able to carry out health research again, but wasn’t sure how to get into it as a career”. After gaining clinical experience as a nurse in hospitals and the community, Ann then worked as a disability analyst and in 2010 began a Masters in Health Research at the University. A study nurse vacancy in ECSG arose in 2012 and from there she grasped the opportunity to do the PhD.
Working as a study nurse
Ann’s work as a study nurse and the skills that she learnt during her Masters course gave her an appreciation of the research in ECSG. She says of this time:
“I was recording aspects of the patient's experience throughout their illness from their medical records. I found this really interesting and could get quite absorbed in their story, which also felt, and still feels, quite a privilege.
I also enjoyed the emphasis on quality rather than just speed of working, which is encouraged with our data collection, and was pleased to be working on such a high-quality study producing findings of real value to clinicians and patients.”
It gave her the desire to carry out her own piece of research. A PhD is a daunting task however, as it is a massive undertaking and Ann was still working full time as a study nurse, but she says:
“I was very much encouraged by the ECSG senior research team, which gave me the confidence I needed to think I could complete the programme.”
Support from colleagues
Alongside her PhD supervisors, Professor Karl Atkin and Dr Debra Howell, Ann had support from other researchers in ECSG, the technical support staff, and her fellow study nurses. All the skills of the Group were on hand for her to tap into when needed. Ann appreciated all of this support:
“Every little chat my colleagues had with me about it helped support me to keep going; people were regularly asking me how it was going, where I was up to and appreciated the work involved. I find the work the team do as a whole a motivator as it is so unique and can be really valuable for clinical staff and patient care which is what really matters.”
Ann became a research associate in 2020 and continues to work on Haematological Malignancy Research Network (HMRN) which is recognised as one of the best sources of information on people with blood cancer in the world. It has recently undergone a massive expansion which is opening up many new avenues for research that will ultimately benefit patients. A prospect that Ann and the whole team find very exciting.